DThe inhabitants of üsseldorf call their home “the city in 10 minutes”, because it rarely takes longer to get where you want. That’s a big claim for a place that has no less than 50 stadtteile (mini-districts), but it is supported by a U-Bahn and S-Bahn transport system that allows you to get around easily. And therein lies the great appeal of Düsseldorf: a small city of just over 600,000 inhabitants, with the infrastructure, internationality and cultural weight of a much larger city. Add to that the fact that more than 57% of its area is green space, and you’ll see why a recent study ranked it the sixth best city in the world to live in.
There’s plenty of wealth at stake here, much of it splashed along the tree-lined, canal-adjacent Königsallee, one of Germany’s most famous shopping streets. As the post-war capital of North Rhine-Westphalia (established in 1946), the nation’s most populous state, Düsseldorf has become a hub for global business and finance, and well-known celebrities. dressy girls who frequent the kilometer stretch of designer shops on “the Kö” have earned him a reputation for snobbery.
However, this is only part of the story. Visit the Altstadt (Old Town) for an evening and you’ll find a bustling to rowdy center that cares more about good times than good taste, and where the more than 300 pubs, beer halls, restaurants and clubs are lined up so closely that they like to call it “the longest bar in the world”. Established neighborhoods such as Bilk and Flingern – and emerging neighborhoods such as Derendorf and Pempelfort – are home to diverse populations, combining daytime chic with vibrant nightlife. There’s a teeming counterculture thanks to the city’s art school, and Germany’s largest Japanese community can be found in Niederkassel and along Immermannstrasse (AKA Little Tokyo) where the ramen is unbeatable.
The imposing Rhine has long been a site of heavy navigation; today it is a place to walk or have a drink, skate and eat ice cream, thanks to the promenade that runs along its eastern bank. At its southern end is Medienhafen, where the old port has been transformed into a vision of ultra-modernity. Since the arrival of Frank Gehry’s three flexible buildings at the end of the last millennium, a kind of architectural Epcot has emerged around them, where the interplay of the many new structures is as fascinating as their individual designs, all overlooked by the needle-shaped needle. Rhine Tower, with its viewing platform and revolving restaurant.
Across the river is Oberkassel, the somewhat exclusive neighborhood where sheep still graze in the pretty waterside meadows; they keep the view neat and tidy for the owners of the expensive art nouveau buildings above them. However, wherever you find yourself in the city, there are plenty of parks to choose from, from the sprawling Hofgarten, home to the iconic curves of the Schauspielhaus performing arts center, to the romantic ponds in front of the former parliament building of the State, the Ständehaus. There are also community gardens and housing estates in the south of the city, where you’ll find cafes, beer gardens and even a petting zoo.
Where to eat
There’s a wide variety of cuisines to sample, from authentic Italian at San Leo in Altstadt, to hot Nashville chicken served with biodynamic wine at the vibey Hitchcoq in Pempelfort. There is also a strong trend for crossover and fusion cuisine, whether Asian-Mediterranean at Bar Olio, Franco-Rhenish at Fleher Hof or Waya Kitchen, where “Asian-North American-Latin” soul food includes teriyaki chicken sliders and Korean schnapps. . You’ll find great Japanese food all over the city, not just on the Little Tokyo Strip, and Nagaya in Stadtmitte has a Michelin star.
The daily Carlsplatz market is a great place to grab a coffee and pastry or grab a bite to eat for lunch; and on Lorettostrasse in Unterbilk, independent shops are punctuated by some of the city’s best casual eateries. Chef Murat Avcioglu at Noa cooks with vegetables he grew in his own garden, while at Rob’s Kitchen you can enjoy gourmet cuisine at bistro prices.
It’s hard to leave Düsseldorf without having seen – or tasted – the altbier of which the Rhineland is rightly proud. There are five breweries that create this “top-fermented” beer, most of them in Altstadt, where customers accompany their drink with traditional dishes such as sausages, potato salad and huge pork shanks. For a historic setting, try the cavernous bar rooms of Uerige – or for a more modern take, microbrewery Brauerei Kürzer is the real baby of the bunch, at just 12 years old.
The Kunstakademie had a profound influence on the city’s arts and outlook. In the 19th century, this school of fine arts was renowned for its landscape painters; in the 20th, for his photography, and for the teaching of the sculptor and activist Joseph Beuys. Today, it continues to foment a heady mix of both mainstream and underground culture, and the sheer amount of collections and galleries of contemporary art means Düsseldorf punches above its weight on the international stage. At Grabbeplatz you can walk straight out of the three-storey Kunstsammlung K20, with its Kirchners, Klees and Klimts, and into the contemporary exhibition space of the Kuntshalle, while at K21 (the Kunstsammlung’s second location) you You can climb inside the glass roof of the old parliament building on a vast spider’s web, part of a long-running installation by Tomás Saraceno.
The music scene has long been just as avant-garde and original: Düsseldorf has been the birthplace of influential bands such as Kraftwerk, Neu!, La Düsseldorf, Rheingold and DAF, and bars and clubs remain a pioneering space for all kinds of electronica. . There’s usually a lot going on in Altstadt, especially on the weekends, and one of the best places to start is the laid-back Salon des Amateurs, which doubles as the Kunsthalle’s café by day and becomes a meeting place in the evening. hip for the artsy crowd that spill out onto the steps outside. New venture Lucy’s Sky hosts club nights in a speakeasy-style venue on Flinger Strasse; you have to ring the bell at a door hidden between two storefronts to enter its colorful underground world.
Of all the districts in Düsseldorf, Flingern is a particularly fascinating day out. It actually includes two stadtteile, each with a distinct feel, from the quiet urban village of Flingern-Nord to the punk attitude of Flingern-Süd. In the 1980s, the latter’s Kiefernstrasse was a notorious squat, home to anarchist gangs. Today, its houses are the liveliest in the city, their facades covered in colorful artwork chosen by locals, who have built a vibrant alternative community here. Iconic punk and hardcore club AK47 lives in dull glory, while just around the corner, hip new restaurant 5P Style serves up artisan burgers with truffle fries.
A 15-minute walk north brings you to Birkenstrasse and Ackerstrasse, the two roads at the epicenter of the gentrified northern district of Flingern with its leafy squares and independent cafes. Artists’ studios and galleries punctuate the route of vintage shops and upcycling shops; it’s the kind of place where you can find a couture hat on one side of the street and a tattoo on the other. Among the many pleasant restaurants, Bulle Bistro, with its wine bar and bakery cousin, stands out, while the fabulous cakes at Café Hüftgold earn their claim of being ‘world famous in Flingern’.
Where to stay
There hasn’t always been much love for Dusseldorf’s post-war architecture, built at high speed to restore a city that was largely destroyed by bombing in World War II. But Ruby Luna (doubles from £85 B&B), opening in May 2021, has found something to celebrate in the 1950s style of its Altstadt location. The open lounge and restaurant are a stylish homage to mid-century space-age design, and the rooftop bar offers truly great city views (if you don’t already have one from your window) . There’s also a nod to the town’s love of rock music, with a Marshall amp in every room and a ready-to-play guitar in reception.
Ticket provided by Interrail; prices start from €185 (for four days of travel in a month). The trip was insured by Dusseldorf Tourismus